Lord Foulkes caught in £54,000 expenses row

HE EARNS £52,000 a year in his 'day' job as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. But the demands of Holyrood haven't stopped George Foulkes claiming a further £54,527 in expenses over the past year as a member of the House of Lords.

As Lord Foulkes, he attended the upper chamber 94 times over the past financial year, charging taxpayers an average of 580 for each day of parliamentary business there.

Foulkes, the only member of the Scottish Parliament who also sits in the Lords, last night faced demands from his political opponents to stand down from one of the positions.

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But Foulkes said he was capable of doing both jobs well, insisted all his expenses claims were legitimate and pointed out that as a peer he was helping oversee the work of MI5 and MI6 as a member of the Intelligence and Security Services Committee at Westminster.

Statistics released at Westminster revealed that Foulkes, a Labour list MSP for Lothian, claimed 21,014 for overnight stays in London, which he used to finance his flat in the city. A further 7,626 was claimed for meals and incidental travel not covered by his 16,327 travel allowance for journeys by car, train and aeroplane.

Office costs amounted to 9,474, according to the figures – covering the year from April 2007 to the end of March 2008 – and, finally, the figures show 86 in claims for postage costs. His Holyrood expenses were only to 3,649.

Mike Rumbles, the Lib Dem MSP, said: "I'm astonished that he feels he can do these two jobs in two different places at once. It is quite remarkable. As MSPs, we have enough to do, and our jobs should be focused on serving our constituents in Scotland and Edinburgh, whether or not you are a list or a constituency MSP.

"Lord Foulkes really should be concentrating on his work in Scotland or his work in the Lords. I don't think there should be any dual-mandate MSPs in the Scottish Parliament."

The only other MSP with a seat at Westminster is Alex Salmond, MP for Banff and Buchan and MSP for Gordon. As an MP, Salmond receives an annual salary of 60,675, but takes only a third of his MSP's salary – this 17,697 a year is put into a trust fund to finance charity contributions in his constituency. Salmond also receives 70,000 as First Minister.

Unlike MPs, members of the Lords do not receive salaries. Foulkes has been an ultra-loyal Labour peer and always voted with the party during 2007/08. He took part in numerous votes on issues ranging from Northern Ireland security, to Human Fertilisation and Embryology and the Greater London Local Authority.

"This is important work," an unrepentant Foulkes said. "I work very hard to keep people under scrutiny. I have no worries about this at all."

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Foulkes added that his expenses claims were "within clearly defined guidelines".

"I have a flat there. You have things like mortgages, service charges, council tax, heating and lighting and telephone bills," he added.

The figures also revealed that Lord Watson of Invergowrie, the former Labour minister who was convicted of fire-raising, claimed 42,805 for attending on 129 days.

Pete Wishart MP, the SNP's constitutional affairs spokesman, said: "It is scandalous that Lord Watson is allowed to continue grandstanding at the public expense in the Lords. It is time for the House of Lords reforms, banning anyone with a criminal conviction from sitting in the Lords, to be brought back."

Where the money went

During the 2007/08 financial year Lord Foulkes claimed…

Overnight subsistence 21,014

Day subsidy (meals and extra travel) 7,626

Office costs 9,474

Car 3,764

Rail/ferry/coach 4,795

Air fares 7,768

Postage 86

TOTAL 54,527